Upgrading an HP 110 3100

For the series: “I want to build a Frankenstein of my own” I recently got my hands on a HP 110 3100 [1]to be specific, it was the SM version of the HP 110 3100  that was laying abandoned in a closed cabinet at my parents’ house.

My dad described it as: “Rubbish; too slow” and, after turning it on and almost dying of old age myself, I could not disagree that much. Not discouraged, I thought I might had a use for it [2]I was searching for an energy efficient PC that would have to execute very basic tasks and be on all the time. I was looking into barebone PCs before stumbling upon this old laptop. and decided to give a try at resurrecting it.

I analyzed the specs of the HP 110 3100 and decided that I wouldn’t spend more than 80 euros in trying to resurrect it.

Component Details Notes
Processor Intel Atom Processor N455 1.66GHz /
RAM SO-DIMM 1 GB DDR2 (Upgraded to 2GB*) * Recycled from an mid-2007 MacBook.
Video Chip Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3150 /
HDD 160 GB SATA Hard Disk Drive 5400 rpm (Upgr /
Battery Blu-Basic HSTNN-DB1U 4400mAh (*)  * Replacement. Total cost: 31,40

Based on this table, the bottlenecks were  4:

  1. The HDD. Originally a HDD operating at 5300rpm, 160gb. Considering that most SSDs run on SATA 3, and the HP 110 3100 would work with SATA 1, I knew a cheap SSD would do just fine and max out the SATA 1 all the time.
  1. RAM. 1GB is not enough, even if I intend to execute one program at the time only. I see that I can’t install more than 2GB, but I am positive that the extra space will help. DDR-2 SO-DIMMs have become somewhat rare nowadays, and expensive. I have a dead MacBook that uses exactly the same RAM, I will scavenge from that and save those 25 / 30 euros.
  1. CPU. OK, very direct: It sucks and there is nothing we can do about it [3]See Intel Ark for more info. Amen.
  1. Battery. It was dead when I picked it up. We left it to die and it did just that. Too bad. I was able to find a rather cheap battery for 31,40 euros [4]Bought from ReplaceDirect.nl – Surprisingly good website and decided to invest.

I am not interested in the pathetic screen the HP 110 3100 has, I plan to keep the lid closed 95% of the time and access the laptop via TeamViewer.

Coming with Windows 7, I was entitled to upgrade to windows 10. After reading reviews about Microsoft’s OS on 2GB machines with under-powered CPUs [5]There are many discussions about this matter. In my opinion the one on SuperUser is the most enlightening, I decided to give it a go: Clean installation and Windows 10.

As you might have understood, I am trying to make this netbook behave as a barebone PC with the aim of doing basic tasks such as browsing, running TeamViewer, and casting. Deep in my head there is the idea of buying a barebone PC, but I want to see if I can save those 180+ euros (excluding ram and SSD) by recycling this little netbook.

“How does the HP 110 3100 perform with an SSD and more RAM?”

Well, I like to say that, no matter how pretty you make it, a toilet will stay a toilet. This holds true for the HP 110 3100. Simply, the processor is too slow for today’s standards. There is no circling around this issue. For sure, the addition of an SSD and extra RAM space make it a spaceship compared to the original device, but it just can’t take it. Running TeamViewer already takes away 50/60% of the CPU. Viewing movies in Full-HD on the small screen will result in stuttering, opening anything results in 2 to 3 or more seconds delays.

On the plus side, the netbook consumes way 6W to 7W while working, and the battery lasts a long while, but it is still unbearably slow.

“So, should I spend money on trying to improve the HP 110 3100 in 2016?”

The short answer is: “No”. Simply, the SSD and RAM improvements will not be enough to circumnavigate the slow Atom N455. It would only make sense to invest in the HP 110 3100 if you intend to use this netbook for very (VERY) light activities like text editing. With Notepad that is, not with Word.

The long answer is a bit more complex: while what typed above still holds true, you are going to need that SSD anyway, if you will go for a barebone PC eventually, and if you are going to buy a cheap laptop, chances are that it will come with a HDD that you’ll want to replace. True: the Kingston SSDNow V300 is slow compared to basically any other SSD[6] See UserBenchmark tests, but it is still faster than any HDD. It will not be wasted money in the end. Remember, “cheap and performing” are the keywords here, not “expensive and fast”.

Another question might be: “Is it good enough to work as a barebone PC replacement?” Since that was what I was searching for. I have to say: “No, it’s just not enough.” Remember: the Atom N455 will stutter when trying to play Full-HD movies. There is hardly anything you can do without at least a little frustration.

Final words

I tried to improve something that was abandoned and unused and I did just that; but due to the limitations of the CPU, I couldn’t do enough to make this little netbook usable again. The HP 110 3100 is a decent little laptop for people who like to type, and spend long times away from a socket. 1996 speeds.

My advice is to recycle, or better, sell the HP 110 3100, save the battery and RAM money (as I mentioned, the SSD you might need if you are going for a barebone in the end,) and get anything more recent, also second-hand.

References   [ + ]

1. to be specific, it was the SM version of the HP 110 3100
2. I was searching for an energy efficient PC that would have to execute very basic tasks and be on all the time. I was looking into barebone PCs before stumbling upon this old laptop.
3. See Intel Ark for more info
4. Bought from ReplaceDirect.nl – Surprisingly good website
5. There are many discussions about this matter. In my opinion the one on SuperUser is the most enlightening
6. See UserBenchmark tests
Giulio Menna
Lover of: all things digital, humanities, and medieval manuscripts. I created Sexy Codicology and the DMMmaps Project and run them both with passion and love in my free time. I am an MA graduate in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University. Still happily living in the Netherlands.